FutureSchools Review – Day 2 Session 3 Part 1

“A teacher does not need to teach everything.”
– Gavin Hays

Welcome back for the review series from FutureSchools 2016. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. This article will focus on the presentations by Gavin Hays and Jill Margerson, taking this series through to the afternoon break of day two. I have to admit that I entered this third session rather numb, mentally, feeling a touch of conference-itisthat sensation of having heard too many ideas and struggling to process them all. It still amazes me the number of people who sit there and do not appear top be taking any form of notes for later reflection, whether it be manual with a notebook and pen, or digital via some form of word processing app or Live-Tweeting. I would be lost without my notebook, but then, as the saying goes, different strokes for different folks.

Gavin Hays (@gavhays) is from the Parramatta Marist High School and was speaking under the title PBL and STEM Mashup. Gavin began by speaking about how they had implemented Project Based Learning (PBL1) across Years Seven to Nine and then Problem Based Learning (PBL2) across Years Ten to Twelve.

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The #PBL jigsaw #futureschools

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Gavin spoke about how PBL1 and PBL2 are both based around three key skills (top row in the PBL Jigsaw) that are supported by three attributes. Projects require authenticity, but this not necessarily mean based in the real-world or their local context, it means real and of significance to the students in some way. Limited PBL learning to the local context limits the scope of problems and projects. It was also discussed how groups are formed, sometimes teacher assigned, sometimes student formed, and that group roles are allocated, again, either by the teacher or determined within the group, as that is a realistic function of how groups often function in real-world contexts.

The second attribute that is required is that there should be active exploration involved, that it should generate wonder and curiosity and focus, acting as a springboard for possibilities rather than a ceiling for activities. Gavin stressed the point here that the teacher does not need to teach everything, that students do need to grapple with learning and pushing through struggles.

Gavin then spoke about how they felt that they needed to explicitly teach the STEM content up front and how over time they eventually learned to trust their program and teachers were adding in the STEM content, concepts and skills organically. Students need to get to the point of frustration, and teachers need to provide scaffolding to allow them move beyond that, however that does not mean the scaffolding is provided immediately, at all times. There needs to be an opportunity for students to, potentially, work through something on their own. They found that students would often need three to four years to properly embed the attributes and skills that were being taught.

The skill of collaboration did need to be explicitly taught, including how to manage differences within a group, assign roles, set deadlines and that over the four year program, students would complete in the vicinity of one hundred and eighty projects and that it was early in Year Eight where students seemed to connect the dots with group management, task delegation and deadlines and the impact that those skills could have on the final product.

This led to a discussion about communication and how students needed to learn  to communicate with each other and also with the whole cohort, which was facilitated through the requirement for a presentation of projects, with the audience expected to listen and ask probing questions, forcing the presenters to really know and engage with their product and the skills and concepts underpinning it in order to be able to answer questions on the fly and with confidence.

STEM was additionally offered as an elective subject and was underpinned by a driving question which would necessitate being chunked for easier engagement, and assessment of the underlying problems and issues but that these driving questions would require significant understanding of a variety of concepts and skills across a range of curriculum areas and that the final design was first prototyped and tested, refined, re-prototyped, retested and then the final product produced.

Gavin’s final point was that we, and our students, need to continue learning, always, as life never stops teaching, which was a sage point to finish on.

I will halt this article there as it is Friday afternoon and I am still at school rather late and I very much want to go home. I will endeavour to get the next article, finishing out session three, tomorrow at some point. Until then, as always, thank you for reading.

Jump to day two, session three, part two.

Reflections on Teacher Life and Resilience

“Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.”
– Attributed to Jamais Cascio

What strategies do you employ to weather the storm that is the beginning of the school year and the mental chaos and stress that it generates? What advice would you give to pre-service teachers or new graduates to set them up to get through the chaos of term one mentally intact?

I have been finding this term mentally and physically stressful, draining and tiring, despite my contract being for three days as opposed to the four days of last year.That said, last year, I was tasked solely with teaching digital literacy skills in an RFF capacity, a role that I think, as I was reflecting last night whilst talking to Mrs. C21st, I took too lightly, as the skills I was teaching are skills that I think I could perform in my sleep whilst standing on my head, and so allowed some bad habits to creep in, in regards to planning for specific lessons.

This year, I am finding that there is so much more to do than what I was aware of from my ITE and even from last year. There are whole facets of teaching that do not get touched upon in, well, not the ITE program which I completed. The actually planning and programming from a scope and sequence that has been prescribed by the school, the administration required on a daily basis including everything from marking, checking books, interacting with parents, staff meetings, committee meetings, extra-curricular activities such as sports teams and debating, reassuring the student who’s struggling to feel comfortable socially that they do have friends, giving your banana to the kid who has no lunch, buying a water filter because the water in the taps tastes bad and on top of everything else, changing numeracy scope and sequences halfway through the term (though when the one that was being used made no sense, I actually do not mind that one, as frustrating as it is), having to prepare Individual Education Plans for any student who requires an adjustment for their learning.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/z44hnvk 22nd February 2016


In addition, this is also the start of the football (soccer) preseason, which brings its own time requirements, especially given that I am refereeing with a branch that is an hour away.Pre-season seminars, courses to upgrade my Referee Assessor (coach) qualifications, pre-season trial games, an FFA Cup match, training, fitness tests and other meetings have seen me spend about four or five hours just travelling each week, on top of the actual time at the event.

Then there is the chaos that comes about from Mrs C21st now being pregnant, which though  things have been relatively smooth so far, with more nausea than actually being sick, it has brought its own challenges, especially in regards to food and working out what smells set her nausea off. Thus far, it has not been as bad as it could be, with the smell of red meat cooking, chia seeds, and some yoghurts being the main things that set her off, and our (her) consumption of white peaches necessitating the purchase of a fresh bag of six peaches every two to three days.

At the end of my first day of my first practicum back in 2012, in a Year Six class, I was hooked, I had the buzz, the rush of adrenalin that comes when a student has an a-ha! moment and gets it, and I thought to myself that, yes, I was in the right profession. I would be lying if I denied having wondered about the truth of that thought in the last week. Recently, I asked for feedback about pursuing a permanent posting, and Corinne Campbell (@Corisel) commented that I should continue to pursue a permanent posting, as being  granted that would also see me gain access to significant additional funding for mentoring and guidance in planning and programming and early professional development opportunities.

How I feel this term. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/hlsjwn9 22nd February 2016

I think it is fantastic that new, permanently-employed teachers have access to that resource to help gain their footing, and I do remember hearing one my friends from university who was permanently appointed straight out of university, talk about that and how she would be struggling even more than she was, without the time that it gave her to get her head around all of the tasks that were never mentioned during our ITE.

As far as I am aware (and if I am wrong, please correct me!), as a temporary or casual teacher, I do not have access to this assistance. Whilst I understand, from a practicality and management point of view why casual teachers do not have access to it (which school manages it etc), I think it is as important that temporary and casual teacher’s gain access to it in some format, even if only on a pro-rata basis.  I am contracted, for the year, at .6. Why should I not be able to access .6 of the full amount in order to gain some guidance, mentoring and assistance in wrapping my head around everything? Why could a casual teacher with a good working relationship, whether with a particular school or a particular teacher, not nominate that teacher/school to be their mentor, and some sort of agreement is negotiated to provide the assistance to the new teacher?

There has to be a way for this to be better, and more equitably managed. There seems to be a regular discourse about the shortage of teachers and the rates of new teachers that are leaving the profession within their first five years being abominably high. Why can we not seem to come up with a way to put in place, for those new graduates who want it, access to assistance that is currently restricted to one small portion of the workforce?

I have not had one of those days since my last article on that topic, however, I have not particularly enjoyed my teaching lately as I am too busy stressing about getting through everything I have ben told I need to get through. I suspect that my desire to complete my referee qualification upgrade this season will fall by the wayside as it will be the first casualty of the year due to the amount of time that refereeing sucks up.

On the plus side, other than a few nights, (including tonight, but Mrs. C21st is out at a training night), I have done well in not doing work at home when Mrs. C21st has been at home as well. That said, I have been getting to school at around 0630, and have often only left earlier than 1800 due to appointments.

I had a bit of a stress-out last night. I had lost Saturday as I was refereeing an FFA Cup (the assessor was happy, I got a result in regular time, ran just under fifteen kilometres according to my GPS unit, and took just under sixteen thousand steps) and then spent the remainder of the day completing paperwork and reports and going through my post-match recovery program. Sunday we spent in Sydney seeing some family and friends we had not seen in a few months, and it was dinner time when we arrived home. I ended up getting a little bit of planning done for what I need to do, and was in bed at 2030, and then here this morning at 0615, with a fresher, cooler head.

Retrieved from tinyurl.com/guodvkf 22nd February 2016


Today did actually well. I get through everything I wanted to, except for three activities, and only half of my reading groups.But I think that, despite what I wrote earlier about taking work home, that I will take the night for myself to relax, go for a light run (I have a fitness test tomorrow afternoon) and then an early night.

I do have faith that I will make it through this term, we are, after all, halfway through. I do remember feeling like this when I first started working in one of my previous occupations, and asking my manager at the time what I was doing wrong that I was not getting through my workload each day, and stressing out about it. I do not know what changed, but it did and suddenly one day, I was the one helping others get through their workload. I believe I will get there, and that at the moment I am somewhere in transitory phase between consciously incompetent and consciously competent.

That said, I would love to hear strategies, whether mental or physical, that you use to get through this chaotic time of year.

As always, thank you for reading.  I do have photo of my new classroom to update the header of this blog, I just have not had time to upload it yet.


“The thing I loved the most – and still love the most about teaching – is that you can connect with an individual or a group, and see that individual or group exceed their limits.”
– Attributed to 
Mike Krzyzewski

I thoroughly enjoyed the role that I had last year as an RFF teacher focused on teaching digital literacies. It afforded me the opportunity to experience a wide range of students, to try pedagogical strategies with different class groups to see what worked, and on occasion, what most definitely did not work, and to get a greater feel for what kind of teacher I want to be, without the pressures of being a permanent teacher on a single class and the associated additional responsibilities that are attached to that role such as the extra administration, reports (though I had to complete reports, it was significantly less stressful and time-consuming than my colleagues), PLAN data, parent communication etc.

This year, as mentioned in my previous article, I am job-sharing with a more experienced colleague on a Year Five class, and while I am feeling more nervous about teaching a single class and having those additional responsibilities, I am also more excited than I was last year. In particular, I am excited about the sentiment expressed in the opening quote. I saw growth in many of my students last year, and formed some strong working relationships with various students, however, I found it difficult jumping from class to class, or even Stage to Stage and regularly not being able to continue with a particular lesson that the class was thoroughly engaged with and where deep learning was occurring because my timetable required me to move on to the next class.

This year, whilst there is a timetable that needs to be adhered to, learning milestones that need to be hit and external factors that need to be allowed for, I will have the opportunity to really connect with my students and see them day-to-day, rather than once a week, and see learning opportunities through to completion and experience the growth across the year that students will undergo.

I met with my teaching partner, Mrs. W, a few times throughout January to get some planning and programming completed, to determine the mechanics of how the classroom would function, management strategies, division of labour across particular Key Learning Areas etc. and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, largely, we were on the same page to begin with. Mrs. W had some fantastic ideas that she wanted to implement and she was accepting of many of my ideas.

This start makes me believe that we will be able to successfully work together during the year, as long as we continue to communicate. I have never worked in a job-sharing arrangement in any of my previous occupations, though I know many who have, and have heard both horror and success stories. I am encouraged that my school has a strong history of successful job-sharing partnerships in recent years.

The year ahead promises to be exciting, and Mrs. W and I have had lots of conversations about various programs we want to put in place including both literacy and numeracy, and classroom management.

Have you taught in a job-share arrangement before? What strategies made it successful or unsuccessful? Let me know in the comments.

Delivering Professional Development – Google Docs

“The best part of learning is sharing what you know.”
– Attrbuted to Vaughn K. Lauer

My regular readers would be aware that I am delivering profession development sessions to colleagues around the use of technology in the classroom. This afternoon will be the second session in this series, and will be focusing on developing a greater knowledge in using the Google Apps for Education (GAfE).

Last week, I introduced them to Google Apps for Education, and delivered the session via Google Classroom. This afternoon, I will be spending further time with them looking at ways that Google Drive can be used in conjunction with Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides in the classroom, and as tools for collaboration.

On that note, here are some ways that you can deploy Google Docs in the classroom.

  1. Collaborative story writing: Google Docs can be used by multiple authors at the same time. This creates a scenario where group tasks can be undertaken, with each member actively contributing, making it harder for some students to hide in the mass.
  2. Live Feedback: Google Docs allows you to insert comments on the document, as in MS Word, and this allows you to provide live feedback to students on their writing, whether or not you are in the classroom.
  3. Collaborative Planning: Google Docs can be utilised to to collaboratively plan and develop units of work and programs for Stages, Themed Units and Terms.

Those are a few simple ways that Google Docs can be used.

As always, thank you for reading, and I would like to hear from anyone with ideas on how you use Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Class or Drive in the classroom or for staff Professional Development.


“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
-Attributed to Amy Poehler

No single teacher, on their own, causes great things in the classroom or motivates students. That may sound odd, given that most classrooms are operated by a single teacher, but we do not cause great things to happen in isolation. The great moment in a lesson occurs because we have brainstormed how to deliver a particular lesson/skill/concept with a colleague, we have asked our partner or children for their feedback, we have sought feedback from our own students on how we can be better teachers for them and put that into practice, we have been to a professional development session of some description that has lit a fire under our tail and ignited a passion we were heretofore unaware of, the office staff have printed and distributed notes for any number of reasons.

In other words, we have collaborated in a variety of ways and with a variety of people. We do nothing in isolation. Ultimately, if we do not collaborate with our students, it will be irrelevant how amazing and inspiring our lesson plan is. Without their collaboration and buy-in, nothing is achieved.

I had a conversation this morning with a colleague who delivered my program to some classes on Friday, and her feedback was very useful. She pointed out that attempting to have students save a filed onto a communal USB was very time-intensive, and recommended simply using a class list as a tick and flick sheet, with a particular competency noted at the top of each column, and a tick if the competency was achieved. That was the initial idea, and somehow in the transition to using the class laptops as opposed to small groups, the method was cast aside. I used that method this morning, and it was much easier, and much simpler to put into practice in the classroom, and also when entering the data on the spreadsheet that my records are being kept on.

Collaboration with colleagues, especially around sharing what works is vital to a teachers success. How do you collaborate?

As always, thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from people about the collaboration that is going on.